M. Mark Miller grew up on a ranch in Southwest Montana where the rugged Tobacco Root Mountains carve a jagged skyline in the Jefferson River Valley. As a boy, he played with farm machinery like tractors, grain combines and hay rakes, and farm animals like horses, cows, and chickens. When he was 10 his father gave him a heifer calf. He worked on the ranch the right to keep the calf and her offspring there, and he eventually accumulated a beef herd that helped him pay for college.
He majored in journalism at the University of Montana hoping to land a job that would let him see the world. After graduating, he worked for newspapers in Utah and Kentucky. He was awarded a teaching assistantship at the University of Kentucky. Bright students hooked him on teaching, so he went on to earn a doctorate at Michigan State University. He then taught journalism and communications at the Universities of Wisconsin and Tennessee.
In 2003 he returned home to Montana. Inspired by his grandmother’s tales of her trip to Yellowstone Park in 1909 and her father and grandfather’s trip there in 1882, he began researching early travel there. He collected hundreds of first-person accounts of travel to the park and has publish three anthologies.
His first anthology, Adventures in Yellowstone, includes a dozen tales of high adventure such as Truman Everts’ account of being lost and alone in the Yellowstone wilderness for 37 days in 1870; Emma Cowan’s chilling tale of being captured by Indians, and Eleanor Corthell’s heart-warming story of taking her seven children to the park.
When he was signing books at Old Faithful Inn, people kept asking for campfire stories that could be read in one sitting, so he assembled The Stories of Yellowstone. It contains 72 stories beginning with John Colter’s famous run when Indians stripped Colter naked and ordered him to run for his life, and ending with Henry Merry who sneaked his car into the park before theywhere allowed there. Rangers roped Merry’s car and dragged it to park headquarters.
His third anthology, Sidesaddles and Geysers, contains the stories of adventurous women who visited the park more that 100 years ago. It includes the stories a 6-year-old girl who visited the roadless wilderness in 1874 and of an English woman who dropped soap into a geyser to force it to play.
Miller tried his hand at fiction with Macon’s Perfect Shot, a mid-grades novel. In it 14-year-old Macon Josey gets in trouble when his travel partner falls into a geyser. Macon must take his scaled friend home and the only way leads toward a band of viscous horse thieves.
Miller’s first narrative history, Encounters in Yellowstone, was a finalist for the High Plains Book Award for literary fiction in 2021. It braids together the stories of tourists who ran afoul of the Nez Perce when they fled through Yellowstone Park in 1877. It tells the stories of two women taken captive by the Indians; a blazing gun battle, and a gun-shot man’s crawling 6 miles to find help.
His next book, Rediscovering Wonderland, will be published in February. 2022. It tells the story of the intrepid men of the Washburn Expedition that explored the headwaters of the Yellowstone River in 1870 and used their findings to persuade the US Congress to establish the world’s first national park.
Miller’s articles on Yellowstone Park and Montana history have been published in The Gallatin History Quarterly, The Big Sky Journal, and Montana Quarterly. He lives in Bozeman with his wife, the fiber artist Tamara Miller and volunteers at the Gallatin History Museum.